Dothan Education Foundation Core Store logo

The Dothan Education Foundation recently discovered that Dothan City Schools teachers spent, on average, up to $600 last year from their personal bank accounts for classroom items.

“Another thing we’ve seen is these school supply lists just continue to grow and grow and a lot of students in the community simply can’t afford all those supplies on the lists,” DEF Executive Director Lindsey Fountain said.

Families with children in elementary school through high school planned to spend an average $696.70 per household in 2019, according to the National Retail Federation.

These revelations led DEF’s governing board to decide to open a free supply store for DCS teachers.

Fountain said the idea started with a question: “How can we really move the needle when it comes to everyday needs in the classrooms?”

In the survey, teachers were asked where most of their classroom spending went, Fountain said.

Their responses were the core supplies: notebooks, paper, pens, markers, pencils, crayons, scissors, cleaning supplies and more.

“This is a stressor that affects the morale of our educators and the management of the classroom,” Fountain said.

The revelation led to the store’s name, Core, which also describes education’s role as the center of the Dothan community.

“The little things become big things on a teacher’s budget,” Amanda Smith, LinC teacher at Faine Elementary, said. “Teachers often pick up extra crayons, markers, folders, Sharpies and class snacks on their personal Walmart & Publix trips. The Core Store is going to be a budget and time saver for us!”

The Dothan City school system boasts around 1,000 teachers, meaning roughly $600,000 of their personal money was spent last year on common classroom items in addition to the stipends they receive from the state.

This past year, teachers received $700 each, the largest amount they have ever received for the purpose of purchasing classroom supplies. This past week, DCS teachers were given bank cards to easily spend the funds.

Fountain said the store would work on a point system and allocate the points evenly among teachers depending on the supplies at the shop. After registering online and verifying employment status, teachers will be able to register for a time slot to shop.

The organization will depend on the community to fundraise and donate supplies for the store.

“We rely heavily on community support to make sure this program will grow,” Fountain said. “We all have a connection to the teacher, and we have lots of ways for people to help out. There’s a lot of opportunity.”

She said people can volunteer their time to help with the store, start their own fundraisers, or donate supplies or money to the Core store.

“Our dream is that it will become a hub for teachers, and do small-group workshops based on innovative teaching approaches and the supplies that are donated,” Fountain said.

Companies such as Publix Supermarkets and Tyndall Federal Credit Union have already committed to providing donations and/or sponsorship in support of the store and Fountain hopes other regional and national businesses will sign on as partners. It is also her hope that businesses donate untraditional items that could be used for interactive research or learning opportunities.

DEF started its fundraising efforts for the entire month of October on Tuesday with “Stock Our Shelves Month,” a city-wide effort with weekly themes regarding area businesses. Each week, certain types of businesses (i.e. retail, restaurants, etc.) advertise deals or discounts to customers who participate in the drive.

The nonprofit is so dedicated to the new venture, which is planned to open at the beginning of 2020, that it is moving its offices inside the location behind Badcock Furniture Store on Wise Drive.

Dothan City School Superintendent Phyllis Edwards commended the foundation on its new focus, in addition to the various other ways the foundation supports teachers like classroom grants and seasonal “gratitude grams.”

“This is an opportunity for the foundation to provide service and materials to teachers,” Edwards said.

More information can be found on the Dothan Education Foundation’s Facebook page or from the website: www.dothaneducationfoundation.org.

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